An Idiot’s Guide to Going Back to the Gym
So it’s February and that can only mean one thing: That approximately 75% of you who got gym memberships for Christmas have stopped going entirely by now. No, don’t protest! There’s no shame in it. In fact, I’d probably count myself among you right now if it weren’t for one thing: I got a gym membership despite the fact that I didn’t ask for one.
I could only assume this was my family’s way of saying “We love you but you’re becoming too expensive to feed” and so, after three years of little to no physical activity, I returned to the gym to forge myself anew in the crucible of physical training.
Unfortunately, I’m kind of an idiot, and so my first month back in the gym was essentially one long series of terrible decisions. Here are some of the things I learned.
1. Go with somebody who knows what they’re doing
After carefully putting together my workout playlist (“I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the Mulan soundtrack on repeat) I entered the gym on the first of January, ready to mould myself into a svelte, ripped ubermensch. There was just one problem, I had no idea what I was doing.
Stepping onto the gym floor was like leaping into the future; it was full of machines that I didn’t fully understand, everybody spoke some foreign language that featured words like “delts,” “reps,” and “lats,” and everybody looked like they’d been genetically engineered.
I suppose, in hindsight, I could have asked one of the gym instructors to help me out but then I’d have felt bad because this would be taking up valuable time that they could be spending standing in a huddle around the women’s aerobics mat. So in the end, I just sort of winged it for the first week, picking machines at random and then moving on to something else when I got tired and/or bored.
If you only take one thing away from this article then let it be that this a spectacularly awful way to get fit. It was only when one of my friends bumped into me a week later and asked why I was using a machine that strengthens the calf muscles of pregnant women that I gave in and asked for help.
My more athletic friend asked me what I’d been doing for the last week and then revealed that all my efforts on those mystery machines had essentially just been exercising one of my triceps and my left buttock.
He agreed to show me a decent workout program, if only for my own safety.
2. You’re probably going to suck at it
My friend led me away from the treacherous machines and towards the free-weight area of the gym. A place that I had previously avoided because everybody there either looked like the jock-bully from an ’80s movie or an extra in a prison drama.
He then explained my new workout plan to me, about 10% of which I actually understood. I nodded and smiled while he used terms like “blasting antagonistic muscle pairs” and “super-sets” and wondered what I was getting myself into. As it turns out, his long speech basically could be translated into “You’re going to lift heavy things repeatedly in ridiculous poses for the next hour.”
What happened next wasn’t the most shameful athletic display in the history of that gym but only because Lance Armstrong had visited it two years before.
I lifted weights with all of the enthusiasm and vigor of a Kardashian doing an honest day’s work. l was objectively awful and continue to be objectively awful because, and I hate to tell you this, all sports movies are a f&**ing lie and montages don’t happen in real life!
The last three decades of movies had led me to believe that, as soon as I hopped on the treadmill for the first time, an ’80s power ballad will start spontaneously and the rest of my workout regime will be done through an inspiring montage.
In reality, I was absolutely terrible on my first day of training and I’m only marginally less terrible at it now, four weeks on.
3. It’s supposed to suck
It’s only after I started working out again that I realized that I had unknowingly gained an arch-nemesis in my quest to lose some weight. It was my own body.
I don’t want to exaggerate or anything but the human body is a stupid a-hole that doesn’t want you to lose weight. You see, while our lifestyles have changed dramatically in the last thousand years or so out bodies haven’t changed all that much. As far as it’s concerned you’re still living in a cave and all that fat is a precious energy source that needs to be conserved to get you through the lean times between mastodon hunts.
It’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to motivate yourself to diet and exercise. Working out and dieting feels terrible at first because your body literally thinks you’re starving to death and starts sending signals like “What the hell are you doing? Stop running immediately and eat some Ben & Jerry’s before we die!”
Unfortunately it’s pretty much impossible to get in shape without experiencing any of this discomfort. If you’re on a diet then you have to accept the fact that you’re going to be pretty much constantly hungry for a while until your body adjusts. If you’re trying to build muscle then there’s no getting around the fact that you’re going to wake up feeling like Gomer Pyle after the soap n’ sock scene in Full Metal Jacket for a few weeks. Anyone who tells you different is either lying or trying to sell you some magic “fat-burning pill/cream/suppository” (In which case they’re also lying to you).
Again, this came as a shock to me since, living in an internet age, I’m used to instant gratification. A lifetime of playing video games had skewed my vision of how getting better works. I kind of hoped that I’d spend five minutes doing dumbbell lifts until I heard the level-up music from Skyrim to indicate I now had +15 attractiveness.
4. You’re going to look terrible
When you mention that you’re going to go back to the gym some well-intentioned idiot may say something to you along the lines of “Yeah? I hear that’s a great way to meet women.” This person is wrong and you should tell them to their stupid, lying, fat faces. It will be physically impossible for you to attract a member of the opposite sex while working out because you will look dreadful the entire time. It might be feasible for the athletic, toned adonises (adoni?) that have been going to the gym for years but if it’s your first couple of weeks back then you can forget about it.
Nobody looks good on the treadmill. While, in my head, I imagine myself as some sort of athletic Kenyan sprinter, in reality I am shuffling forward like something from the Walking Dead all the while proving that the human body is in fact about 60% water because approximately all of it ends up on my t-shirt.
Most gyms are (officially or unofficially) separated into men and women’s sections because there is a general understanding that neither really wants to see each other like this. Yes, there are rare attractive specimens on either side, I would like to specifically thank one girl who was doing lunges by my rowing machine who ensured that, had I been in a real boat, I would have ended up somewhere around the Gulf of Mexico by the time she was done. But mostly (especially in January) it’s full of chubby, red-faced dudes who are still trying to run off all that turducken weight from Christmas.
5. The locker room is going to be full of old, creepy men WAY too comfortable with their own nudity
No one knows why this happens. There just exists a type of guy that, despite being in his 50s and about 40 lbs. overweight, will wander around the locker room for hours at a time as his dong wafts gently in the breeze.
Richy Craven is a sophisticated machine for turning whiskey into regrettable life-choices. You can check out more of his stuff over at Cracked, A Series of Terrible Decisions or, if you like mediocre jokes about Batman and Game of Thrones, follow him on Twitter.
Richy struck a balance between ridiculousness and reality with Bat-Villains Too Lame to Be in a Dark Knight Movie and The 5 Nuttiest Real Life Superheroes.